By now, I think, many, if not most, of you have heard about the attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords, in Tuscon, Arizona. Ms. Giffords is a Democratic member of the US House of Representatives, re-elected in November to a third term. She is considered a moderate. Fourteen other people were shot, six of them killed, including a US Federal judge and a 9-year-old girl. Giffords survived surgery yesterday, was responding to doctors simple instructions, and is expected to live, though it will likely be a while before anyone knows how badly her brain has been damaged. (She was shot in the head at close range.) She is in a medically-induced coma, a common treatment for people with severe brain injuries.
Here is a continuing sampling of things I have learned about the situation.
1. Giffords was shot while holding a "Congress on Your Corner" event: an open, public meeting, where people could talk with their political representative. This kind of contact is something in which she strongly believed.
Ironically, in 2009, another person with a gun showed up where Rep Giffords was holding a similar meeting, and dropped his gun.
2. Rep. Giffords voted in favor of US health care bill. When she did so, her office in Tucson was attacked and vandalized.
3. Giffords worked hard to defeat the 2006 Arizona anti-gay marriage initiative.
4. Rep. Giffords was one of 20 Democrats who US Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin had identified on a map, showing a cross-hairs/bullseye target. (I have seen the image, and have it on file; Palin has pulled it from her web site.)
When Palin put crosshairs on a map, she urged followers to "reload" and "aim" for Democrats.
Giffords' Republican opponent for the congressional seat held June event, using language such as "Shoot a Fully Automatic M16" to "Get on Target" and "Remove Gabrielle Giffords."
5. The Sheriff in Tuscon has made several stunning comments:
“The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous.”
“Arizona, I think, has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”
He also believes this atmosphere unhinges the unbalanced.
(I have seen that information on television and in print.)
This, in relation to the fact that the alleged shooter is mentally unstable.
6. Christina Green has been identified as the 9-year-old killed in the shooting. Ironically, she was born on 9/11. She was on the student's council at her school and was the only girl on her baseball team. Her life began and ended with tragedy. She is the granddaughter of former major league manager, executive and pitcher Dallas Green. Green managed the Philadelphia Phillies to their first World Series championship in 1980.
7. With his usual irony, Andy Borowitz latest publications is headlined, "Fox News Warns That Without Angry Rhetoric It Will Have 24 Hours to Fill." Subtitle: "Would Create ‘Giant Hole’ in Program Schedule."
As someone who has worked for over 30 years as a reporter, I know that details in a situation like this can change on a continuing basis. It may be some days before the story becomes clear.
What is clear is the atmosphere, the background, of partisanship and vicious rhetoric, which is more and more evident in the life in the United States. As someone who lives next door to the US, I find this development quite frightening, for my American friends, and for us as neighbours (who tend to copy American habits).
I am well aware of the part of the American psyche which says "guns solve problems," which goes back to 1776, and before. The American gun owners I know are responsible people. But the ethos in which they live makes it possible for irresponsible people to get guns quite easily. In Canada, possession of firearms is much more tightly controlled, particularly in relation to the ownership and transportation of hand guns. People who have legitimate reasons for gun ownership (for hunting, or for predator control in rural areas, or target shooting) don't have problems.
Ironically, a friend of mine, and fellow blogger, said (a few years ago) that he thought the US had about ten years before it tears itself apart. Given the background in which the Giffords' shooting occurred, I'm inclined to still agree with him.
Lord, have mercy.
I don't think I'm going to be able to get back into hibernation for a while. This has been very upsetting.
Special thanks to everyone who has already read and commented. I would encourage you to read those comments. This is, for all of us, a very trying time.